Training Update: Week 2: 6/13/09

I’m sitting in my memoir intensive and while my students are pouring their hearts out on the page, writing about the triumphs and challenges they’ve faced in their lives, I’m taking the time to let you know how my training is going so far.


That is to say I really had no idea about the intensity and scope of the time and energy commitment I was making when I plunked down my 90 bucks and registered for the 3-Day-Breast-Cancer walk. As I’ve written before, I haven’t seriously exercised in almost 40 years. In my “good” periods, I’ve taken daily walks to the beach, a round trip of perhaps a mile. In “bad” months, my main exercise has been between the computer and the refrigerator and the bed.



I walked over 20 miles this week, swam, biked and did yoga. I walked 5.7 miles this morning before teaching for 8 hours. That meant getting up at 6:00, stretching at 6:15 and walking by 6:45. I walked for two hours using the new “swinging the arm” technique that one of my students, Patti, taught me Wednesday after class. Apparently it’s the momentum of the arms swinging that get the heart going, enable you to keep up your pace and make possible the really long distances that will be required of me on my 60-mile walk. At first, coordinating my arms and legs felt bizarre, but now, with about 12 miles of practice, I can imagine walking into Staff of Life for some plain unsweetened soy milk and swinging my arms vigorously all the way to the back of the store.

I had no idea there was so much to the mechanics of walking. But just in the past few days, my shoulder as stopped aching after my walks, I am making better time, and my whole position is more upbeat.

My friend Barbara taught me to take a baked potato (or sweet potato) with some salt on it on my walks to keep giving me the energy I need and to keep my electrolytes balanced. Every fifteen minutes I alternate drinking water and drinking water with electrolytes added. Hydration is essential. I’m learning all the places in town to refill my water bottle. Scoping out the free to the public bathrooms is also a necessity.

All of this is brand new to me. And I must say it a pleasure to be experiencing “beginner’s mind,” to be learning, rather than teaching, to be developing a part of me that has generally been disregarded and put off for later.I have been trying to find a team to train with, but the ones I’ve emailed (there’s a whole linkage thing on the 3-day site) have not responded. I’ve walked several times with friends, though I’m afraid my required mileage will soon put off all but the heartiest. I also really enjoy walking alone. I get to practice walking meditation, listen to dharma talks (meditation instruction), and get in a very focused internal state. Other times, I just let my thoughts go and all kinds of insights arise. When you are walking for two hours at a time, there’s room for everything!

One of the best things about walking is that I am seeing my town in a whole new way. Thursday I had to get a new tire. I dropped the Odyssey off at Big O Tires on Water Street. Walked down to the levee and did the whole circle…down to Highway 1, all the way around downtown and to the Boardwalk and back…6.1 miles. I showed up at the shop two hours later, a minute before closing time. I’d had a whole new view of Santa Cruz. I doubt there is a more beautiful place and a better climate in which to “force” yourself to walk 20 miles a week!

The idea of training is to increase your mileage gradually each week, to give yourself a day of rest, to log in the walking miles every other day, to do cross-training on alternate days, which in my case has been bike riding, yoga or swimming, none of which I have done with any regularity for years. But the most essential part of my training routine is the hot bath with Epsom salts I take every night. Building muscles is hard work!

Fortunately for me, I have a built-in yoga coach at home (for those of you who don’t know her, my partner Karyn is a yoga teacher).

And Lizzy’s on my team as well. Yesterday, she and I went over to the Simpkin Swim Center, just down the street from our house, for a half hour of lap swim. Both of us were full of memories of her swim team days, several years back. She challenged me to a breaststroke race and beat me by four lengths. The grin on her face. Such satisfaction. I was panting and she hadn’t broken a sweat.

On the way home, I told Lizzy how much I liked who she is as a person. I told her that I admired her and felt I could learn from her example (And that is no exaggeration). She smiled and then replied, “Mom, I’m so proud of you for walking for breast cancer.”

There have been other unexpected benefits. For the first time since I was diagnosed with cancer, I am actually experiencing hunger, which is a great boon! When I come in from a walk, I want to devour all the protein and carbs in sight.

Interestingly, although I feel very tired and sore in the evening, it’s a good kind of physical tiredness, not the exhaustion I identify with cancer or the recovery from cancer. I haven’t napped this week and before I started training, I had to nap every day. I guess my commitment to this cause and the exercise I’m doing is giving me energy.

I can already tell that this commitment to raise money for breast cancer is going to be a bigger gift to myself than it is to anyone else. Just being at the beginning of this process, I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

P.S. So far, I have raised $1733 dollars for the Susan Komen for the Cure Foundation. My ultimate goal is to raise an ambitious $15,000. If you haven’t already contributed, you can do so at any time. No amount is too small. And if you donate online, you can spread the payments over time.

To donate, you can go to:


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